I’m excited to be reviewing books for our 10th Multicultural Children’s Book Day to shine a spotlight on all the great diverse KidLit! Today, I want to also talk about The ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month Challenge, which was founded in 2015 to help picture book writers reform writing by reading and researching mentor texts in the month of March, and share picture books that inspire me as a children’s book writer.
Picture Books That Inspire Me as a Writer
Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Victor Ngai
A pitch-perfect picture story that uses a minimum of words to tell a deeply emotional and moving story of Vietnamese boat people refugees.
This is a picture book where the illustrations and the words are equally powerful. Author Mượn Thị Văn sets the book up by personifying the different elements of a harrowing escape: the night, the bag, the light, the dream, the clock, the path, the boat, the sea, the sun, the heart, the home … and finally, the child protagonist. Each element has a specific wish in support of the family that is leaving everything behind.
The brilliance of this story is in the structure, which allows a minimum of words to convey a wallop of emotions in a way that gives the readers an immediate empathetic connection with the family. The illustrations are so effective to convey the emotions of the family, both through emotion and by the use of color. This is a pitch-perfect picture book. I was surprised that it didn’t win a Caldecott Award. It deserved it. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Fry Bread is a mentor text that an editor suggested to me for revising a picture book manuscript, so I have been studying it to try to figure out the magic. I think it starts with structure in using Fry Bread as an analogy to describe the history of a Native American people, in this case, the Dine or Navajo. But it’s also a personal story of the author’s own experience that embraces his culture and community. The beauty is that the story both zooms in and out to simultaneously tell two stories, one person, and one, a lesson in history.
I also study the descriptive, playful, and lyrical language that Kevin Noble Maillard uses. Each page spread has some element that makes it special. For example, in describing Fry Bread is a Shape, Maillard uses similes to describe shapes that young readers can relate such as a pancake, a ball, and Nana’s softest pillow. Fry Bread is Sound uses onomatopoeia to let the reader “hear” clanging, sizzling, and popping sounds.
The illustrations by the wonderful Juana Martinez-Neal add playfulness while also depicting an ethnically diverse cast. I also think the Author’s Note is one of the strongest that I’ve seen. It is a crash course on Native American Navajo history, told in a very personal and engaging way through Kevin’s own life story. This is a picture book that covers a lot of ground — autobiography, history, food writing, recipe, and more — and leaves you hungry for more. [picture book ages 4 and up]
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
This was the second mentor text that I am studying for a picture book manuscript rewrite, and this is a high bar to reach. Angela Joy writes in rhyme using the colors of the rainbow to tell a black empowerment story. It’s like walking while rubbing your tummy, and patting your head, all at the same time. This is the Cirque du Soleil of rhyming picture books. It’s a marvel to behold but it takes a trained professional with highly specialized preparation a lifetime to achieve. Like Fry Bread, this story weaves history into a story structure of the colors of a rainbow. Also, the poetry is not just rhyming, but also lyrical.
Caldecott-winning Illustrator Ekua Holmes also uses her own visual metaphor of stained glass windows to tell this story. The reference to stained glass also hints at church, an appropriate connection for black activists who used the pulpit and the community of the church to effect change during the Civil Rights Movement. [picture book ages 4 and up]
Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
There are so many perfect moments in this gem by Lee Wind and Paul O. Zelinsky. Lee Wind takes a real event that happened in Billings, Montana, and makes all the right decisions in terms of telling the story to show the reader how one child can make a difference. When writing about an actual event, I get caught up in the details, and my stories often balloon and segue to lose the plot entirely. But Lee Wind makes careful decisions that loop and underscore the lessons of this story that he wants to impart. For example, he runs lyrical rhyming text throughout the story that serves to uplift the heavier story of an antisemitic hate crime. The words are spare and convey the exact perfect amount of story and emotion. It lets the readers go on their own journey to discover and feel the story for themselves. The illustrations are also wonderful and make this story more accessible to kids. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Picture Books That Inspire Me as a Writer
I want to preface why I chose to separate Independently Published from Traditionally Published. After independently publishing my own middle-grade book, Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes, through a Kickstarter campaign, I have a newfound appreciation for the amount of work and challenges of creating your own book.
In fact, it just so happened that my Kickstarter launched on the heels of Deedee Cumming’s ambitious 5 book Kickstarter campaign, where she, all or nothing, had to raise $40k. My Kickstarter number was a much more modest $6k, and I marveled and tried to copy Deedee’s success because she raised more than $6k on the first day of her Kickstarter project!
Deedee wanted to tell a five-part story of Kayla, a modern-day princess who is, in fact, a Broadway actress — her own daughter! She hopes to use this book series to manifest a Broadway musical for her daughter to perform in. Honestly, if anyone can pull this off, it would be Deedee! She is an amazing person who can move mountains!
Kayla: A Modern Day Princess A Little Magic (Book 5) by Deedee Cummings, illustrated by Charlene Mosley
Kayla is an elite ballet dancer and this can be a competitive world where other people do unkind things to get ahead. This book series follows the career of a young dancer as she navigates a complex world on her way to pursuing big dreams. Unfortunately, haters are part of this world too. Kayla shows how determination and hard work can overcome any obstacle and this is an important message to all readers! [picture book ages 4 and up]
Language Lizard offers bilingual books, multicultural books, and dual-language audiobooks for kids and English language learners (ELL) of all ages. Their books tell multicultural stories for young language learners, in many languages. It’s also a broad range of languages including French, German, Italian, and Japanese, AND bilingual books for kids in less commonly taught languages such as Hindi, Nepali, Russian and Somali! They are a great resource for all ESL teachers as well as adults who want their children exposed to different languages.
Vaccines Explained by Ohemaa Boahemaa, illustrated by Joyeeta Neogi
With the rise of diseases such as polio, it’s more important than ever for people to understand the science behind vaccines, and this picture book does a wonderful job of explaining how vaccines work to audiences of all ages. The picture book is both matter-of-fact and engaging. I believe that kids are more willing to undergo shots when they understand why it is important. This book belongs in every pediatrician’s office! [picture book ages 4 and up]
Ten years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.
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📌 FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day
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- Mental Health Support for Stressful Times Classroom Kit
- Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents
- Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit
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- FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program
📌 Register for the MCBD Read Your World Virtual Party
Join us on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at 9 pm EST for the 10th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Read Your World Virtual Party!
This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.
We will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **
p.s. Related posts:
Join us for our Read Your World Virtual Party with Massive GIVEAWAYS!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 10th Anniversary VIDEO!
Help Us Share about Multicultural Children’s Book Day FREE DIVERSE KIDLIT
Sponsorships Open for our 10th Year Celebrating Multicultural Children’s Book Day!
Sign up to be a Multicultural Children’s Book Day Reviewer!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day Poster by Lisa Wee!
FREE Teacher Classroom Kit Mental Health Support for Stressful Times
Thank you for interviewing me about Multicultural Children’s Book Day!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
1 thought on “MY Multicultural Children’s Book Day BOOK REVIEWS!”
Thank you so much for sharing this lovely book review on our Multicultural Children’s Book Day linky. We hope to celebrate with you again next year!